SP Planning Board Gets First Look at Bell Project
BY TED M. NATT JR.
The Southern Pines Planning Board will hold a public hearing Thursday on the Bell family's request to rezone 558 acres adjacent to Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club so a major development can be built.
The undeveloped land, known as the Knollwood Tract, is located near the intersection of U.S. 1 and N.C. 2. It is the same tract that was the center of a major confrontation five years ago when the proposed Pine Needles Village development was defeated.
Kelly Miller, president and CEO of Pine Needles and Mid Pines, said "nothing has changed" since the Bell family submitted a conceptual plan on June 25.
"The plan is the same as the one we submitted," Miller said. "We'll speak a little bit at the public hearing, but most of it will be similar to what I said at the (Southern Pines) Town Council workshop in May."
The plan was required as part of the family's application to rezone the land from Planned Development-Conditional District (PD-CD) to Planned Unit Development (PUD).
Town Manager Reagan Parsons has said a successful rezoning would give the developer and the town more flexibility.
Miller reiterated Monday that a developer has not been chosen.
"We want to first get through the rezoning process," he said. "We're not pursuing anything at this particular point."
The tract is currently envisioned to include a 300- to 400-room hotel, an 18-hole golf course, up to 350,000 square feet of retail space, up to 100,000 square feet of office and commercial space, as many as 300 assisted living units, and up to 300 residential units.
In addition to the golf course, recreation areas would include walking trails, horse riding trails and golfing practice areas.
Tony Grausso, co-owner of Seagrove Candle Co. and a founder of the Broad Street Merchant Community, is currently gauging interest among the group to petition the Town Council for a community/economic impact study to determine how a large retail component might affect downtown shops.
"The goal of such a study is not to stop or impede the project but rather to fully understand how this development will impact existing community assets, including our business district," Grausso wrote in an email sent last week. "As a community, we would then be prepared to plan for ways to help ensure our district remains vibrant amidst this new dynamic."
Grausso closed the email by saying, in part, that "our collective response will determine if we move forward with this effort or not."
Grausso said Monday that about one-third of the group had responded, but he declined to reveal the results.
"We're still seeking merchant input," he said. "This is a community issue. I'm looking at it from a merchant stakeholder perspective."
In the email, Grausso said he will work to "draft the petition and circulate it for your endorsement next week" if the majority of merchants support the effort.
"If we do not ... we will let this play out without our organized involvement as a stakeholder group," he said.
Miller said an impact study is not required at the conceptual stage, and noted that some people have misinterpreted a memo sent to town officials by Planning Works, the Kansas-based consulting company hired to update the town's Unified Development Ordinance (UDO).
Bruce Peshoff, a partner at Planning Works, said his firm never recommended that the town require a study.
"We were only informing town officials that they had the latitude to be able to ask for one under the existing UDO regulations," Peshoff said. "That was something we had prepared before the Bell family submitted its rezoning application.
"Everything provided in the application is general, not specific, so a study would be premature at this point."
Peshoff said the question of whether to require a study would not be raised until the Bell family has submitted an Incremental Master Plan (IMP).
"The IMP identifies project intensity detail, and is the point where actual development intensity is proposed and established," he said. "It is at IMP that the impact of specific development activity can be measured. Otherwise, there would only be a hypothetical impact based on some assumption of development potential."
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at (910) 693-2474 or tnatt@the pilot.com.
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